On March 26th, Mets starting pitcher Noah Syndergaard underwent successful Tommy John surgery to repair a torn UCL in his right elbow. Syndergaard will miss the 2020 MLB season and return during the 2021 season. The recovery time for Tommy John surgery is about 12-15 months, so the exact return date will vary from April to July.
This injury leaves a significant gap in the Mets’ current rotation. In 2019, Syndergaard threw a career-high 197.2 innings, going 10-8 with a 4.28 ERA in 32 games.
Syndergaard’s free agency prospects will likely be impacted by this injury, as he is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2021 season.
Syndergaard’s procedure presents an interesting timeframe and lead-up to free agency. Had Syndergaard not been injured, impressive 2020 and 2021 seasons could have warranted a $200+ million contract for him in free agency. Syndergaard still possesses immense talent with his triple-digit fastball and 90+ mph breaking pitches.
However, this injury only brings uncertainty to fully develop that talent. Assuming Syndergaard takes 15 months to recover and returns during the All-Star break in 2021, he would have roughly 15 starts to audition for free agency. That would likely not be enough for a $100 million contract, let alone $200 million.
Syndergaard appears to be a candidate to sign a one-year ‘prove-it’ deal for 2022 and look to cash-in the next winter. This would allow Syndergaard to maximize his market value.
Lance Lynn is another starting pitcher who underwent Tommy John surgery two years away from free agency. Lynn had the surgery in November 2015, missed the entire 2016 MLB season, and returned for the 2017 season with the Cardinals. Lynn had a solid season, going 11-8 with a 3.43 ERA and subsequently signed a one-year, $12 million contract with the Twins for 2018. However, Lynn had a poor season in 2018 and signed a three-year, $30 million deal with the Rangers. Syndergaard could potentially follow this path to reach a multi-year, $100+ million deal starting in 2023.
Syndergaard has publicly stated that he loves being a Met. Whether it’s the Mets or another team signing Syndergaard long-term, this appears to be a potential path post-Tommy John surgery.